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Gravel roads and gravel private access and liability

  • 1.  Gravel roads and gravel private access and liability

    Posted 20 days ago
    Edited by Timothy Letchford 19 days ago

    At Sunshine Coast Council we have had a practice of grading gravel roads that have been constructed over time to an standard formation including the provision of pipe culverts/causeways at low points. However we have not extended our maintenance program to what we call private gravel accesses (not formed with table drains and associated drainage) which are typically at the ends of gravel roads and only generally service a single property, or maybe two. Our position has been that if the resident upgrades the access to a formed gravel road through an operational works permit council will then maintain the upgraded section. This gravel road network that we maintain is identified on a GIS layer in Council's corporate system.

    There has been increasing political pressure to upgrade these accesses which in many instances will cost several hundred thousand dollars. There is also the perception that we may have current public liability for these anyway even if there is signage. ("if it looks like a road then it is a road")

    I‘m seeking feedback on how other councils with similar gravel accesses manage this issue.



    Tim Letchford
    Co ordinator, Asset Strategy

    Civil Asset Management
    Built Infrastructure Group
    Sunshine Coast Council
    Ph: 5475 8856
    Mobile: 0417 719 598



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  • 2.  RE: Gravel roads and gravel private access and liability

    Posted 19 days ago
    Hi Tim,
    We currently manage about 700km of gravel roads and then also have listed about another 150km of what are deemed unmade roads/tracks and not formally maintained by council. These unmade roads will normally lead to one property or national park etc.
    Under our Road Management Plan we have a clear policy on private roads and how customers can request their road to be added to our maintenance program. We inspect the road and if it meets our criteria then it is added. I think this is what you are asking. Please see below extracts from our RMP.

    Private Roads
    There are a number of private roads within the Golden Plains Shire that are linked to Council's road network, but which are not registered as public roads on Council's Register of Public Roads or are otherwise considered to be private roads.
    Under section 107 of the RMA, Council does not have a statutory duty or a common law duty to perform road management functions in respect of a public highway which is not a public road or in respect of a private road.

    Criteria for Determining Whether a Road is Reasonably Required for General Public Use
    The following criteria will be used to assess whether any section of road is "reasonably required for general public use" and should therefore be included in Council's Register of Public Roads.
    a) Mandatory Requirement
    The road must be a public road. That is the road must be:
    ▪ Declared to be a public highway under section 204(1) of the Local Government Act 1989;
    ▪ Declared to be a municipal road under section 14(1) of the RMA; or
    ▪ A public highway under section 24(2)(c) of the Subdivision Act 1988.
    It should be noted that roads that are public roads (or public highways) are not necessarily going to be deemed to be 'reasonably required for public use' and therefore will not necessarily be included on Council's Register of Public Roads.
    b) Non-Mandatory requirements
    The following guiding principles will be used to determine whether a road is 'reasonably required for general public use' within the meaning of section 17(3) of the RMA.
    Golden Plains Shire Council Road Management Plan Page | 28
    The road must satisfy at least seven of the following ten criteria:
    ▪ Provides primary access to at least one full-time occupied residence;
    ▪ Is named and signed;
    ▪ Has previously been constructed by and / or maintained by Council;
    ▪ Contains public utilities (i.e., Powercor, Telstra, etc);
    ▪ Provides clear benefit to several property owners (not just one);
    ▪ Is required for fire access purposes;
    ▪ Connects into and forms part of the wider network of public roads;
    ▪ Is fenced on both sides;
    ▪ Is required for vehicular use; or
    ▪ The road is the only means of access to abutting property/properties.

    David Greaves
    Golden Plains Shire Council
    Manager Works

    Pro Cert 2

  • 3.  RE: Gravel roads and gravel private access and liability

    Posted 19 days ago
    Hi Timothy

    This is WA advice

    Every Shire I have worked for has maintained public roads to the current standard of construction.  Any works on private land or private driveways has been by contract agreement and generally where private contractors are not available to do the work.

    Roads are routinely classified (i) unmade; (ii) track, (iii) formed, (iv) paved and (v) paved & sealed.  Upgrades are by the Shire at the Council's sole discretion.  There is (almost) always a general presumption of responsibility to provide access to the primary property access point and usually more appropriate service levels.  Tracks to single or remote properties may be acceptable.  All weather access is not always standard.

    With respect to liability if the Shire owns/manages the land responsibility and liability is inescapable.

    With respect to the political pressure the Local Government generally can't afford to give everyone everything that they want.  A clear and simple standard of service and Council policy linked to a budget line item for upgrading is your best bet to manage expectations or refuse.  If your elected Council has the money and the will no problem.


    Graham Lantzke
    Principal Asset Engineer
    WSP Pty Ltd

    Pro Cert 2

  • 4.  RE: Gravel roads and gravel private access and liability

    Posted 18 days ago

    Hi Tim,


    Assuming that you are being pressured to upgrade an unformed track to council formed standards, at council cost and due to the perception, that "if it looks like a road then it is a road" and it is located on road reserve.


    The area you are addressing is a bit 'murky', from the perspective of the rate base it could be perceived that council is funding what is potentially a section of driveway, (unformed track) within a road reserve which should not form part of the maintained gravel road network, as it services one property at the end of the road.


    Of course the property owner is more than happy to have the unformed road upgraded and included on the maintenance program.


    We had some discussion around this at Tablelands Regional Council and from memory adopted a policy of maintaining up to the second last driveway as a formed gravel road, with the section of the last driveway that was within road reserve maintained upon request as a gravel track, (e.g. Filling to rutting once this exceeded intervention level).


    I don't recall if we had instances of the property owners upgrading this section, (at their cost) to a formed road to council standards.


    Had the property owner upgraded the unformed track to a formed gravel road to council standards then it makes sense to have it included in the maintenance program as you mention is the case in SCC.


    Here at Gladstone Regional Council we maintain up to the second last driveway as a formed gravel road and there is provision for a property owner to carry out repair or maintenance works on the road with approval and at no cost to council.


    GRC policy maintaining Gravel Roads has a definition of a road as: - "A road is-

    (a) an area of land that is dedicated to public use as a road; or

    (b) an area of land that-

    (i) is developed for, or has as 1 of its main uses, the driving or riding of motor vehicles; and (ii) is open to, or used by, the public; or

    (c) a footpath or bicycle path; or

    (d) a bridge, culvert, ferry, ford, punt, tunnel or viaduct.


    The "where it is open to or used by the Public" is the 'murky' bit, possibly moving this to a 'General Public' might help in this regard as it would imply that it is used as a driveway but that is another discussion.


    We maintain our category 5 Rural (5r) <150Vpd gravel roads to significant problem or issue by assessment, (e.g. fallen tree, severe corrugation or rutting, washouts) level only.


    The category 6 Rural (6r) are not maintained, these would be similar to the unformed track mentioned above which services a property.


    Hope this helps,



    Christopher Barnett

    Senior Asset Management Engineer
    Gladstone Regional Council
    PO Box 29 Gladstone QLD 4680
    Email | Website



    Christopher Barnett
    Gladstone Regional Council

    Pro Cert 2